An early morning flight brings you to the Inca capital of Cusco, Peru where Quechua speaking descendents of the Incas move back and forth in the busy plazas and markets. Colonial churches sit atop bases of smooth stonework laid centuries before the arrival of the Conquistadors. The church walls have fallen many times throughout the years, but the Inca walls remain steadfast.
The morning is yours to explore Cusco's narrow streets and bustling markets. In the afternoon, you'll travel through Cusco's traditional markets talking to the women selling natural medicines and charms for curing heartache and other afflictions. You will visit the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cusco, a local organization committed to preserving the region's weaving traditions. Watch weavers demonstrate their craft and learn about the history and processes of Peru's most well-known art form.
Today is free to relax and explore on your own or with your guide. Travelers can go on a city tour of the churches and surrounding ruins, wander through Cusco's busy center, shop in local markets and just people watch in the Plaza de Armas. For those bursting with energy, horseback riding, mountain biking, or even whitewater rafting (Class III-IV) can be arranged. The night is yours to take in some of Cusco's varied and exciting nightlife.
We depart Cusco early on Day 4 and head toward the town of Tinqui, passing several Andean villages and Inca and Pre-Inca archeology along the way. Tonight we make camp close to town and prepare ourselves for the journey ahead.
The next morning we start our trek by crossing the river Ocongate and hiking through the puna (high grasslands) towards the majestic Mount Ausangate, which dominates the skyline at 20,940 feet. We'll pass Andean farmers working their fields with traditional tools and shepherds tending their llamas and alpacas. A visit to a rural school along our route gives us a chance to meet the children and share in their daily lives. The western ice-wall of Mount Ausangate looms in sight of tonight's camp, and as we soak in the rustic thermal baths nearby, the deep rumbling of calving ice penetrates the still air.
Over the next four days we'll make our way through scenic valleys and over high mountain passes, camping alongside turquoise glacial lakes and natural hotsprings. As we hike through the broad valley floors we'll scan boulders and scree slopes for the delightful viscocha, a small rodent that looks like a cross between a rabbit and a squirrel. We might also see groups of vicuña, whose soft golden wool makes them arguably the most beautiful member of the llama family. On Day 7 we reach the highest point of our trek, ascending to 16,564 feet as we cross over Palomani Pass. A breathtaking panorama of the surrounding snow-capped Andes rewards us for this challenging leg of the hike. After a steep downhill stretch we settle into camp for a chilly night at high altitude! Another day of gradual climbing lies ahead before we begin our descent toward the small Andean village of Pacchanta, where we can rest and relax in the thermal hotsprings and even enjoy a beer. On Day 10, we complete our circuit with an easy walk back to Tinqui. From there we head back to Cusco in time for hot showers and dinner!
Day 5 - Trek length: 7.5 miles (5 hrs); Camp elevation: 14,500'
Day 6 - Trek length: 7.5 miles (6-7 hrs); Camp elevation: 15,000'
Day 7 - Trek length: 7.5 miles (7-8 hrs); Camp elevation: 15,000'
Day 8 - Trek length: 8 miles (7-8 hrs); Camp elevation: 15,000'
Day 9 - Trek length: 8 miles (6-7 hrs); Camp elevation: 14,500'
Day 10 - Trek length: 9 miles (6 hours); Overnight in Cusco
Catch a flight to Lima to prepare for your red-eye flight home (return flights must leave no earlier than 5 PM). Or, ask us about visiting Machu Picchu. If you haven't seen it, you must!
$450 single supplement